Charge Filed in 1984 Cold Case Homicide of “Baby Mary”

Published on September 07, 2023

Morris County Prosecutor Robert J. Carroll, Chief of Detectives Robert McNally, Morris County Sheriff James Gannon, and Mendham Township Police Chief Ross Johnson announce that a juvenile delinquency complaint has been filed in connection with the December 1984 death of “Baby Mary” in Mendham Township, New Jersey.

On Christmas Eve 1984, at approximately 10:35 am, two boys reported an abandoned and deceased newborn baby girl in a remote wooded area off of Mt. Pleasant Road in Mendham Township, New Jersey.  Law enforcement officers located a baby girl’s body wrapped in a towel, inside a plastic bag.  At the time of her discovery, the baby girl’s umbilical cord was still attached.  The Medical Examiner determined the infant had been alive at the time of her birth. The death was ruled a homicide.

The baby girl, whose identity was unknown, was baptized by Rev. Michael Drury of St. Joseph Church, the Mendham Township Police Department chaplain.  Father Drury named her “Mary.”  Baby Mary is interred at St. Joseph’s Church in Mendham Township.

Over the last nearly four decades, investigators have vigorously pursued every lead to identify Baby Mary and learn more about the circumstances leading to her discovery in the woods.  Using new technology, law enforcement networking in three states, and old-fashioned police work, investigators were recently able to identify Baby Mary’s biological father and mother.

The biological father passed away prior to being identified by investigators. There is no evidence the biological father was aware of the pregnancy, or Baby Mary’s birth or death.

The biological mother of Baby Mary was a juvenile at the time of her birth in 1984. On April 24, 2023, a juvenile delinquency complaint was filed against the biological mother of Baby Mary. She has been charged with one count of Manslaughter, an offense which would be a second-degree crime if committed by an adult. 

Since the woman was a juvenile at the time of Baby Mary’s death and has been charged by way of a juvenile delinquency complaint, her name will not be released. 

Prosecutor Carroll acknowledges the work of Morris County Prosecutor’s Office Deputy Chief Jan-Michael Monrad, Lieutenant Michael Gomez, Sergeant Sasha Gould, Sergeant Matthew Magnone, Detective Dakota Keyworth, and Chief Assistant Prosecutor Christopher Schellhorn; along with Morris County Sheriff James Gannon and Morris County Sheriff’s Office Detective Rosie Brown; and Mendham Township Police Chief Ross Johnson, Mendham Township Police Lieutenant Steven Bittman, Sergeant Matthew Ambrosi, and Detective James Arnesen; and Forensic Scientist Christine Schlenker of the New Jersey State Police Office of Forensic Sciences.

Prosecutor Carroll said, “This arrest is the culmination of decades of effort, across multiple generations of law enforcement. It is a tribute to the tenacity and dedication of the Morris County Prosecutor’s Office, our Major Crimes Unit, the Morris County Sheriff’s Office, and the Mendham Township Police Department.

The death and abandonment of this baby girl is a tragic loss and even after nearly 40 years, remains just as heartbreaking. Justice may not take the form the public has imagined all these years, but we believe with this juvenile delinquency complaint, justice is being served for Baby Mary. Nothing can right this terrible wrong. Thanks to the men and women who worked so diligently on this case, we hope the community is given a sense of closure. 

We thank our law enforcement partners – Chief Ross Johnson and the Mendham Township Police Department, Morris County Sheriff’s Office Criminal Investigations Division CSI and Crime Lab sections, NJSP Office of Forensic Sciences, NJSP Forensic Serology Unit, DNA Laboratory, and the Morris County Medical Examiner’s Office, and our interstate colleagues from the Richland County (South Carolina) Sheriff’s Department – Criminal Investigation Division and Deputy Chief Stan Smith, the Fifth Judicial Circuit (South Carolina) Solicitor’s Office, Cape Coral (Florida) Police Department, Fort Meyers (Florida) Police Department, and the FBI, without whom this arrest would not have been possible.”

Sheriff James Gannon said, “I want young parents to know that there is help available.  In 1984, the Safe Haven Infant Protection Act did not exist but, on August 7, 2000, the Act became law (sponsored locally by the late Senator Anthony Bucco). The legislation allows parents or their representatives to anonymously surrender a newborn baby at any hospital emergency room, police station, fire station, ambulance, first aid, or rescue squads that are staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week. If the baby appears to be 30 days old or less, and free of any abuse or neglect, the baby will be accepted with no questions asked.”

Mendham Township Police Chief Ross Johnson said, “For the past 39 years, the Mendham Township Police Department has pursued this investigation relentlessly to solve this case. If it were not for the hard work and dedication of our officers, who have worked this case over the years, this case would still be unsolved. Nine years ago, past Chief Steven Crawford called for a re-examination Baby Mary’s case for the upcoming 30th anniversary. Our officers, alongside our partners from the county and state, would pursue many leads and investigative avenues, eventually bringing justice for this infant who never had a chance to fight for herself. This has been a great example of law enforcement collaboration, and I want to thank everyone who has been involved. A special thank you to both Prosecutor Carrol and Sheriff Gannon for their unwavering support and dedication to this case. I want to commend all of our current and former Mendham Township Police Officers who investigated or worked this case in one fashion or another, which helped get us here today, as well as Father Michael Drury, who made Baby Mary a part of our community and department over 30 years ago. Every Christmas Eve for the past 35 years members of our department and community have left their own families at noon to remember Baby Mary at a service by her grave, to ensure she is never forgotten. Today we are finally able to bring closure to this case and the community that has supported her.”  

Anyone with information regarding this incident is encouraged to contact the Morris County Prosecutor’s Office Major Crimes Unit at 973-285-6192, the Mendham Township Police Department at 973-455-1700, or Morris County Sheriff’s CrimeStoppers at 973-267-2255.

Video from the press conference is available on the Morris County Government Youtube channel:

Media inquiries concerning this press release should be directed to Public Information Officer Meghan Knab at [email protected].

Baby Mary Press Conference Group 1.JPG

Baby Mary Press Conference Prosecutor.JPG

Baby Mary Press Conference Chief.JPG

Baby Mary Press Conference Sheriff.JPG

Tagged as: